Motivation v.s. Dedication … Can dedication be created?


Quick summary: My coach at Easton Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Boulder Colorado chose to talk about the difference between motivation and dedication to illustrate an important point that he arrived at while contemplating the journey in becoming a black belt. I believe he had two intentions – one was to inspire and the other was to assist the students by offering them a glimpse of reality (the reality being that in a process which takes years and is exceptionally difficult, many if not most people will fail to reach their initial goal). The basic concept is that nothing good comes without effort, and motivation does not ensure the same longevity of that effort as dedication can provide. Motivation is fleeting and is often related to the positive impulses of a finite time period… because of the inherent finite nature of motivation, motivation alone will not produce the effort needed to achieve a long-term goal. Dedication is an internal contract which attempts to guarantee that effort or work will continue with regularity even when motivation is lacking or when apathy or hopelessness are present (this is the definition in my own mind… the actual original definition of dedication suggests that it is an external process – almost every definition I could find had to do with faith or religion – I believe that both I and my couch are talking more of an unrelenting commitment to an internal goal or intention.) This point is very accessible when related to exercise – it is unreasonable to assume that you will have motivation to train or workout every day that is needed for you to meet your individual goals – sometimes you’ll be tired, lazy, apathetic… it could be too cold, too hot, too rainy etc. Those who succeed will need to be dedicated to follow through even when they have zero motivation. Is dedication a choice that all people have equal access to? If dedication was a learned behavior that could be grown in apparently un-dedicated people what effect would this have on our culture?

I was very surprised in my brief investigation about the lack of information concerning the process of dedication.

The dedication that was so commonly referred to seemed to be inherently flawed and therefore somewhat unhelpful in my search for answers as to how to increase dedication.

dedication I found was most commonly found in religious writings… the problem that I found was that often the writings were not talking about dedication at all … instead they were talking about being recurrently motivated by the fear of punishment (such as hell) or the by the acquisition of positive (heaven).

-I am not intending to pass judgment on such a process (the process being the use of punishment and rewards to encourage a behavior), instead I am investigating how dedication came into existence… is there dedication which is unaffected by rewards and punishments? I believe the answer is yes… I believe that there are people who are dedicated to their religions, relationships, goals etc that are not doing so out of promise of reward or fear of punishment…

But what is the source? How can one become dedicated? Is it simply a choice?

One way of creating dedication is through anxiety – both intentionally and unconsciously. If you attach the meaning of your life to a certain variable then you are perhaps more likely to stay dedicated to that variable. This can be done with an “I am” statement – such a statement suggests a permanence that actually does not exist. If you rigidly define yourself with an “I am” statement then you will likely experience significant existential anxiety (anxiety surrounding apparent meaninglessness) if you lose your dedication to a variable which defined “who you are”.

By this reason the quick path to apparent dedication is to strengthen your ego (an ego is the apparently stable identity that you created to explain your own existence – your ego attaches itself rather rigidly to beliefs and characteristics in an effort to define an objective existence and to promote the misguided notion of predictability – all this in an ironic effort to reduce existential anxiety – the irony being that there is no existential anxiety without the ego).

As a psychotherapist I believe that the topic of dedication needs quite a bit more attention from my field…

A therapist can do many things to help an individual or group of individuals to find awareness and hope surrounding changes that would harvest positive benefits… we can encourage and motivate people to engage in those changes, but the therapist cannot ensure that a client will stay dedicated to their desires and goals.

As it is we can increase awareness, we can increase skills, we can increase attachment, and we can increase motivation etc… not only can we do so but we also have a rather stable understanding or how we are doing so.

We do not seem to have a stable understanding of how to create dedication though sometimes dedication is the result of a psychotherapy intervention.

Dedication is the key to maintaining the benefits of a change over a long period of time. The most obvious is substance abuse… it is very common for people to make changes regarding substance abuse… but many of those people will not be able to maintain the effort needed over time… especially when key supports are removed.

I hold dedication… and yet I have no idea or philosophical explanation as to how that dedication came to be…

As I contemplate this issue my mind seems to hover around words and thoughts such as intention, consciousness, the absence of judgment, collective, authenticity, destiny, breath work, and the moment.

A part of me seems to believe that dedication is an authentic intention which arrives at our conscious awareness through finding the destiny or purpose of the non-judging self as is related to the collective intention of all…

By this reasoning dedication would be inherent… dedication would be an unyielding drive towards authenticity… and authenticity which is not created by the mind or encouraged by the environment… perhaps then you can not be dedicated to something which is not authentic or to something which does not reflect your most fundamental purpose.

The purpose of one is related to the intention of the collective… we are all part of the homeostasis… we are all part of the balance… we are all part of the whole while being the whole itself.

To find balance perhaps you must find yourself… you must find your purpose related to the collective… I believe this is more difficult than it sounds as most of us have spent a large amount of time ‘creating’ a self which is a different process then finding oneself…

For dedication to exist there must be a part of all of us which is a constant… from that point arises dedication… dedication is the belief that constant exists… dedication is the intention of the constant.

I find myself once again going to the breath… to find dedication you might follow your breath… follow that breath past judgment… past belief… past identification… to acceptance… acceptance becomes the constant that we find ourselves dedicated to without need of intention… authenticity is arrived at… the gestalt is found… dedication is to your placement in and as the gestalt… dedication then is one with our authentic intention.

I shall receive a black belt if that is my authentic purpose… if that is what is the purpose of the collective… this is true so long as I am able to find my authentic purpose.

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

William Hambleton Bishop

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

4 thoughts on “Motivation v.s. Dedication … Can dedication be created?

  1. It has been very helpful to have a clear distinction between motivation and dedication. That in itself is a boon only the internet could provide.
    Dedication has been a thorn in my side since day one. Situational and culture aside, a major factor in my reality is not being able to provide a basis for my dedication. there are things I excel at and things I do not, like any person, but I have the charisma to “give it a go” , and grasp concepts/actions quickly.
    I am not not short of options in my life but I feel I am at critical on the dedication side of things. It has been a considerable setback for me almost like a disease sapping my potential.

    “I shall receive a black belt if that is my authentic purpose… if that is what is the purpose of the collective… this is true so long as I am able to find my authentic purpose.”

    I came looking for an answer and found a bigger question.


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